Second-string strike force must save Moyes

Posted by Mark Payne

David Moyes is in trouble. Pressure has built around Manchester United and their new manager because results have not been good enough. The midweek loss to Everton has left the club, so recently champions of England, adrift of all but hope. While belief remains in some quarters, patience is wearing thin everywhere.

“There were chances in the game we didn't take. It could quite easily have been very different,” Moyes said Friday. While this is certainly true, the number of games in which United are missing their chances is increasing. The top of the league is now just a speck on the horizon now; it used to be home.

-Kagawa doubtful for Magpies
-Moyes cagey on van Persie fitness
-Mou says United still in race

The great plus point of Moyes’ tenure has been the form of Wayne Rooney. In the space of four months the striker has gone from being a petulant wantaway to one of the best professionals in the business. His form has carried United through a host of fixtures this season. Unfortunately, due to suspension, he will be in the stands Saturday agant Newcastle.

With Robin van Persie also unlikely to make it, the news that Shinji Kagawa is ill was not welcome. "We need to see how he is on Saturday, but he wasn't too good after the game," Moyes said of Kagawa.

Javier Hernandez has expressed displeasure at not being included in first-team plans often enough. However, it seems that every time he is given a start, he disappoints. He is sure to be given another chance Saturday, and this would be a good time to take advantage.

The real issue for United is in midfield, though. Michael Carrick’s absence has crippled creativity, and the sight of Rooney dropping back looking for the ball in recent matches has been frequent. Moyes spent most of the match against Cardiff shouting at Tom Cleverley from the touchline -- almost all of his passes were to the side and unimaginative.

For the sake of professional pride, the champions must win their next game. But I remember writing that before Everton, and before Tottenham too. To be fair to Moyes, United have not exactly got the rub of the green recently, but they have not shown enough adventure to make their own luck, either.

They hit the woodwork against both Everton and Cardiff, and the match against Tottenham could have gone either way. Nonetheless, United managed to create only 15 shots at goal on Wednesday night. While Everton deserve credit, United are expected to fashion about 20 chances a game at home. They simply haven’t been doing so.

How ironic that the United team that waltzes into Old Trafford on Saturday 12 points off the pace are Newcastle United. Shortly after Alex Ferguson made the boldest decision of his career and threw the academy into the first team, Manchester United were 10 points adrift of an exuberant Newcastle and written off infamously by an embittered Alan Hansen in the 1995-96 season. The rest is more than history -- it is mythical.

Of course, Fergie had spent the previous 10 years moulding that team before his side embarked on the run that overhauled that total. David Moyes is still introducing himself to his side. At the moment, the champions are playing like Muppets, and Moyes is the elephant in the stadium.

Mark Payne is the author of “Fergie’s Last Stand,” now available in paperback. Follow him on Twitter @MarkJPayne.

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